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Raising Cain
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from Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon & Michael Thompson

from chapter twelve

What boys need

What boys need, first and foremost, is to be seen through a different lens than that which tradition prescribes. Individually, and as a culture, we must discard the distorted view that colours even boys' perceptions of themselves as above or outside a life of emotions. We must recognise the harm in asking 'too much and not enough' of them - in demanding more at times than they are developmentally able to give while unnecessarily lowering expectations of self-control, empathy, emotional honesty and moral responsibility. We bristle when we hear destructive or disappointing boy behaviour excused with 'boys will be boys', when the truth of those words - boys will be boys - could instead be used to advance the understanding that boys struggle in uniquely male ways at times, and they need 'boy-friendly' adult love, support and guidance to develop a broad range of emotional responses to life's challenges...

[Below we print part of one of seven guidelines the authors suggest for bringing up boys]

Give boys permission to have an internal life, approval for the full range of human emotions, and help in developing an emotional vocabulary so that they may better understand themselves and communicate more effectively with others. The simple idea here is that you consciously speak to a boy's internal life all the time, whether he is aware of it or not. You respect it, you take it into account, you make reference to it, you share your own. There is something of the prophecy fufilled here. That is, if you act as if your son has an internal life - if you assume that he does, along with every other human being - then soon he will take it into account.

Instead of saying 'You can try out for soccer or be in the school play this autumn. Which do you want to do?' you might say'I know you were disappointed about not getting a part in the play last year. Do you want to take the risk and try it out again? I also know that soccer has been an old friend to you, but I've sensed you were losing interest in it these last two seasons. What do you think you want to do this autumn? How are you going to choose between the two?' The question assumes pain, internal conflict, risk, courage, complexity.